The Fragrance industry is one of few supported, particularly by The International Fragrance Association, in maintaining its ‘trade-secret’ status, compared to the numerous cosmetic companies that are legally obliged to list their ingredients on all consumer product labels. Back in the day, when fragrance gurus generated a luxurious new scent, no ingredients or manufacturing processes were published, as keeping that recipe secret meant keeping competitive edge.
So is there such a thing as a sustainable perfume?
The value of fragrant transparency
With the increase of organisations employing sustainable business practices, more and more businesses are being transparent. The cosmetic industry is one of the most studied areas in matters of responsible business practice, because of questions around supply chain processes and harmful ingredients used in products sold across the world. This greater transparency not only comforts consumers in knowing exactly what they are using on their skin, but also exemplifies the organisation as sustainable within the marketplace. With consumers constantly needing to know more, the industry has evolved. Today, we as consumers can create our own perfumes, buying the ‘experience’, as well as the ‘product’, making us not only aware of the ingredients used, but also responsible.
Compared with hundreds of years ago when technology advances were not yet in place, it is now far too easy for chemists to rewind the manufacturing process of any fragrance to detect the used ingredients.
Protecting the Perfume industry’s secrets
So why does The International Fragrance Association work so hard in enforcing the trade-secret protection if it’s so easy to crack the recipe?
The IFA UK states that sustainability is of prime importance to those working in the industry, paying meticulous attention to using natural ingredients where possible and applying sustainable manufacturing processes. Does the push for trade-secret protection then conflict with this declaration?
Every business has a responsibility to its stakeholders to disclose as much as possible. As cited in Guardian sustainable business, organisations, such as Clorox, have taken the sustainable leap in divulging every listed allergen used in each product, as they believe customer loyalty and trust to be their primary concern over keeping secret recipes hush-hush.
Why is the pressure on now?
The question is whether these trade secrets protect the industry’s ‘intellectual property’, or if the value of transparency overwrites non-disclosure to uphold competitive advantage?
Trends of rising sustainable practices within the cosmetic industry suggest that soon enough the only way fragrance manufacturers will be able to preserve consumer loyalty is by being transparent.
It strikes me that it is now the luxury brands, such as fragrance manufacturers, feeling the pressure that has long been bearing down on the majority of other consumer-facing brands.
The fact is that only so much time could pass before an industry which manufactures products using a plethora of chemicals and natural resources would be challenged on its sustainable position.